I’m sure you’ve seen them. You nod and smile and get in each other’s way. Your lives are connected for a few moments and then usually never again.
They’re the people at the grocery store, who, only through chance, are shopping at the same time as you. Fellow travellers with whom you snake around the aisles, sometimes alongside, sometimes passing by, but the whole time together.
You’re with them but you don’t know them but you’re buying your food together. Sometimes you lose them in the fresh fruit then pick them up again by the cheese. Sometimes they skip the baking aisle but they’re back with you near the pasta. Each time you see them you almost say, ‘Oh hello, there you are!’ or if they’re annoying, ‘Oh my god, get out of the way, I can’t reach the sauce.’
The people themselves are different every time (unless your weekly schedules are highly synchronised) but the archetypes remain the same.
Mums with babies, showing them the shops for the very first time, perhaps escaping home for the first time all week. Primary school aged children receiving lessons on nutritional values and finance from their parents. Teenagers dragged along against their will. Young people making their first forays into solo shopping, limited budgets and cooking skills be damned. Older people who need help finding the flour then reaching the flour then carrying the flour. Everyone just trying to get by.
If you’re not one character now, don’t worry. The beauty of life is that you will be them all eventually. Today’s young couple is tomorrow’s new parents and the future’s cute grandparents.
A rolling stone gathers no moss. A year six teacher explained this phrase to us by pointing out that it wasn’t so much friends and family you miss out on by living a wild and varied life, but the everyday acquaintances. Your bus driver, the old man at the park and, yes, people at the shops.
I wonder if there’s another kind of moss. Not individual people you gather day by day, but the sort of people you’ll come across no matter what.
Go to any grocery store and they’ll be there. All shapes and sizes, with different players in different roles, but they’re all the same. A comfort and a staple. A reassuring kind of moss.